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Mississippi retires controversial state flag

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed a bill Tuesday that will retire the last state flag in the U.S. that features the Confederate battle emblem.

The state’s legislature approved the bill during a weekend session and quickly sent it to the governor’s desk.

“This is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together, to be reconciled, and to move on,” said Reeves.

The state’s flag had again come under scrutiny after the nationwide protests against racial injustice following the death of George Floyd. Most recently, Walmart stores had stopped flying the Mississippi flag at their stores in that state. The retail giant had previously halted all sales of items with Confederate symbols.

Lawmakers spent the weekend debating the subject which was emotional for many African American lawmakers who have always seen the flag as a symbol of hatred. Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 statewide election, with supporters saying they saw it as a symbol of their Southern heritage.

“Tonight, I signed the bill to retire the 1894 Mississippi flag and begin the process of selecting a new one emblazoned with the words ‘In God We Trust.’ Now, more than ever, we must lean on our faith, put our divisions behind us, and unite for a greater good,” Reeves tweeted.

A state commission will design the new flag, one that cannot include the Confederate symbol and must have the words “In God We Trust.” Voters will then be asked to approve the new flag in the November election. If they reject it, the commission will draft a different design using the same guidelines, to be sent to voters at another time.

On Tuesday evening, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker (R) joined U.S. Capitol staffers in removing the state’s flag from one of the Capitol subways that displays all state flags. A temporary flag with the state seal is currently on display until a new flag is designed.

“This is a historic & long-awaited day for Mississippi. I appreciate our state legislators for having the courage and conviction to make this necessary change to our state flag. As I have maintained since 2015, Mississippians deserve a banner that unites us rather than divides us,” Wicker tweeted.

The legislation passed the state House 91-23 and the state Senate 37-14.

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